Kicking things off in a riot of colour was Paper City, a ten-day spectacle celebrating the freedom to play. For Paper City we invited leading artists to experiment with texture, colour and structure, using specialist paper from Hull company G . F Smith.
From Lazerian’s four-metre-long anatomical model of a fish, to Made Thought’s suspended paper tapestry, Paper City transformed Hull’s Fruit Market into a rainbow-hued feast for the eyes.
And if you’ve ever wondered what the world’s favourite colour is – we have the answer. It’s Marrs Green, and we happen to think it’s pretty great.
Our exploration into playtime didn’t end there, and in July the Crafts Council took over Humber Street Gallery with the fun-filled States Of Play, using wobbly chairs, interactive mood lighting and a charming robot dubbed Combover Jo to remind us all that play isn’t just for kids.
Throughout the Freedom season, we celebrated the work of renowned poet Phillip Larkin at Larkin: New Eyes Each Year, an intimate insight into the mind of Hull’s favourite literary son. Housed on campus at the University of Hull, where Larkin worked for many years, the exhibition featured personal letters, clothing, film footage and books from Larkin’s personal collection.
For the music fans, PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial brought some of the UK’s leading composers to venues across the city to perform bite-sized, new compositions and discuss their work.
Highlights included a new commission from Mica Levi with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and a world-class performance by GoGo Penguin, plus a stunning supergroup performance from composers Errolyn Wallen, Eliza Carthy, Sam Lee, Jason Singh and Brian Irvine, who worked with communities in Hull as part of the PRSF Composer Residencies project.
Another project which brought diverse communities together was Protein Dance’s (In)Visible Dancing. Following a series of workshops, more than 100 local amateur dancers, dance groups and professional dancers came together in a jaw-dropping flashmob that brought Jameson Street to life and sent good vibes reverberating across the city.
Tackling a sensitive issue was Annabel McCourt’s The Electric Fence, a visceral installation of barbed wire, electricity and ominous space created as a response to LGBT hate crime that provided a stark reminder of how easily freedom can be taken away.
And who could forget LGBT 50? We celebrated the 50th anniversary of sexual freedom with a week-long programme of events, including: a Pride In Hull parade to remember; The House Of Kings And Queens, a powerful photography exhibition showcasing Sierra Leone’s hidden LGBT+ community; a tea and cake-fuelled outdoor performance extravaganza in the form of A Duckie Summer Tea Party and I Feel Love, a BBC Radio 2 concert featuring Marc Almond and Alison Moyet.
August got off to a flying start with the return of Hull’s biggest grassroots music festival, Humber Street Sesh, attracting 30,000 people to the Fruit Market to witness more than 200 acts including LIFE, Fronteers, Fire (The Unstoppable Force), Vulgarians and Bud Sugar.
Hull Truck Youth Theatre brought their modern take on Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend to the stage, re-imagined on the banks of the Humber. Adapted by award-winning writer Bryony Lavery, this feisty production tackled themes of homelessness, cruelty and friendship and shone a spotlight on young actors in Hull.
Throwing an element of mystery into the mix was Act II of the epic Land Of Green Ginger project – The Gold Nose Of Green Ginger – in Bransholme’s North Point Shopping Centre. As rumours spread that the strange nose was a source of good luck, plenty of people stopped by to make a wish.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2017 was Freedom Festival, encouraging us to act upon global issues whilst serving up a big old dose of fun and playfulness.
Whether you marvelled at Compagnie Off’s Les Giraffes as they stampeded through the city, or listened to former Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, delivering the inspirational Wilberforce Lecture, there was certainly food for thought.
This international theme continued with dreamthinkspeak’s One Day, Maybe – a mind-blowing interactive experience centred around the UK headquarters of a fictional Korean technology company.
As visitors were invited to try out the latest advancements in virtual reality and beacon technology, they found themselves slipping between past, present and future, experiencing the chaos of the 1980 Democratic Uprising in Gwangju before resurfacing in a bizarre, futuristic world.
Speaking of all things shiny and new, Hull New Theatre threw open its doors after a lengthy refurbishment this September with an exhilarating evening of dance, courtesy of The Royal Ballet.
Opening The New saw world-famous ballet dancers join forces with renowned Hull exports Xander Parish (Mariinsky Ballet), Demelza Parish (Royal Ballet), Elizabeth Harrod (Royal Ballet) and Joseph Caley (English National Ballet) in a show that extended the walls of the theatre to a live relay before an audience of 5,000 people in Queen’s Gardens. And there was even a surprise visit for those watching the show in Queens Gardens, as the cast hopped onto a vintage bus to say hello and take a bow in front of the crowds.
Rounding off this spectacular season was Contains Strong Language, a new national festival of poetry and spoken word launched here in Hull by the BBC. Over four days, we witnessed work from the likes of Dr John Cooper Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Kate Tempest and Isaiah Hull, bringing together a hugely talented and diverse mix of wordsmiths in a packed programme of literary goodness, presented alongside Hull favourite Humberside Literature Festival.
If all of this has got you wanting more, then don’t worry – it’s not over yet. Head to our What’s On page to discover what lies ahead in 2018.